Governor Lee calls for Special Session for legislation on COVID-19 and Capitol grounds protesters

Posted at 3:28 PM, Aug 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-08 21:44:18-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Governor Bill Lee has called for a Special Session to discuss COVID-19-related legislation. The session will be set for August 10. legislators will address COVID-19 liability protections, telehealth services and laws governing the Capitol grounds.

Lawmakers will address laws pertaining to the Capitol grounds and surrounding areas. During the destructive protest that took place in the wake of the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor shootings, a statue on the Capitol grounds was torn down.

The governor is also referring to the "People's Plaza" activist group which has been protesting at the base of the state capitol for more than 50 days. Many of them have been arrested during that time for criminal trespassing.

Members often demanded that they be allowed onto the Captiol grounds, claiming it should be accessible to the public. They have also used chalk to write messages on portions of the grounds.


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The governor is also aiming to work on the Tennessee Recovery and Safe Harbor Act. His press release said hopes the session will "provide legal clarity and certainty for health care providers, businesses, schools, non-profits" in regards to COVID-19 liability protections.

The bill was slightly controversial with groups like the AARP of Tennessee and the Tennessee Citizen Action questioning its legality. The Senate version of the bill was written to be retroactive, meaning businesses could not be sued for anything as early as March - the beginning of the pandemic.

Last month Gov. Lee granted those protections in an executive order, but the order ended July 31.


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“With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to present challenges for our people and our economy, it is now more important than ever that Tennessee businesses, hospitals, churches and schools have COVID-19 liability protection,” Lt. Gov. McNally said in the press release. “The last thing small business owners, pastors, doctors and school superintendents need to worry about are frivolous lawsuits which would further impede their ability to do their jobs in this difficult time. I am grateful Gov. Lee called this session to address COVID-19 liability and other issues critical to our state. I am committed to working deliberately and efficiently with Gov. Lee, Speaker Sexton and all members of the House and Senate to pass legislation on these issues and get our members back home quickly and safely.”

Lawmakers will address the expansion of telehealth services to Tennesseans and encourage insurers to cover clinically appropriate, medically necessary services provided via telehealth.

“I agree with Gov. Lee’s decision to call a special session,” said House Speaker Cameron Sexton. “We are looking forward to coming back and finishing the people’s business to increase access to tele-health services, and to protect businesses, churches, academic and health facilities from baseless lawsuits during the ongoing pandemic. I am very appreciative of the call to strengthen existing laws against those who deface property, who escalate peaceful protests into acts of aggression and those who seek violence towards law enforcement and judicial members. The House is committed to working with Gov. Lee and his administration, as well as Lt. Gov. McNally and the Senate to safely, efficiently, and effectively address these timely issues for the benefit of Tennessee and Tennesseans.”

The need for telehealth was addressed in some of the governor's first actions as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of Tennessee. He has extended State of Emergency order (Order No. 50) until Aug. 29, which includes telethealth services.